It saddens me every time I see a yogi promoting unhealthy habits and, even worse, encouraging pride in them. I have heard yogis promote drinking stimulants (like caffeine) and alcohol, eating unhealthy foods and cursing.
We are all drawn to certain destructive habits - eating sweets, drinking coffee, complaining about work and family - but we should avoid them as much as possible. All of these things create new obstacles in our bodies and minds, or they reinforce old obstacles. Then, in our yoga practice, we strive to remove these obstacles to encourage our spiritual growth. So every cookie we eat, every cup of coffee, every mean word and thought has to be undone in order for us to progress. (To be fair, I drink my share of coffee and have been known to eat lots of sweets.)
On the flip side of the coin, it is easy to let our pursuit of improvement create frustration, shame and insecurity within us. In an effort to improve we recognize our weaknesses, and we begin to obsess over them. Without care, what starts as a profound and healthy desire to better ourselves can grow into self-loathing.
We are not perfect. I'm not perfect and neither are you. I have histories, scars, memories, habits and desires that hinder me as much as they help me. I try to locate, acknowledge and accept my barriers in order to release them and move past them.
Most habits distract the mind, especially ones that stimulate the senses. This can include food, music, television, even conversation and sex. We must take care that we do not engage in activities to draw the mind outward toward the senses. This is the simple essence of the 5th limb of Patanjali's yoga - Pratyahara or the Withdrawal of the Senses.
When I see yoga paired with wine or chocolate tastings, I am saddened for the contradiction: yoga practice to center the mind and sensory stimulation to draw it outward. I feel the same when I hear yogis encouraging drinking or poor nutrition for the sake of indulging the senses. I know that it is culturally attractive to be a wine connoisseur or to know where the best milkshake in town can be found, but these things hinder us on our progress toward a clear mind and a healthy life.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga